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Major US Airlines Begin Dropping Mask Mandates After Judge Rules Biden’s Mandate Was Unlawful

Published: April 19, 2022
A commuter, wearing a face mask, looks on at the Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida on April 19, 2022. Mask mandates on public transportation are no longer in effect following a ruling by a federal judge on April 18, 2022. (Image: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

After nearly two years, major U.S. airlines have begun dropping mask mandates for travelers after U.S. District Judge, Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of Florida, ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel mask mandate was unlawful.

U.S. airlines, including Delta and United, dropped their mask requirements on Monday following the ruling that dealt a major blow to the Biden administration’s transportation mask mandate. The ruling prompted the White House to say that the mask mandate was no longer in effect, adding that the Transportation Security Administration will no longer enforce the rule on public transport and transportation hubs while the ruling is being reviewed. 

The CDC’s mandate was first implemented in February 2021 and was recently extended through to May 3. 

According to NBC News, aboard a Delta flight from New York to San Francisco passengers erupted into cheers and applause upon hearing the news announced over the intercom, with one passenger shouting, “Finally!”

The ruling has brought an end to an extremely unpopular mandate that resulted in over 1,150 “unruly passenger” reports of noncompliance in the skies this year alone, the majority of which were due to the mask mandate, according to Federal Aviation Administration data.

So far, the airlines shedding the mandate include Delta, United, Alaska, JetBlue, American, Southwest, and Frontier airlines. 

At Delta, the company is telling customers that they “may continue wearing masks if they so choose” via a policy unveiled Monday evening. 

United said, “Masks are no longer required on domestic flights, select international flights (dependent upon the arrival country’s requirements) or at U.S. airports.”

In a statement, published on April 18 to the company’s website, Alaska Airlines said “Face masks are now optional on our planes and in airports under new guidance.”

“While we love to see your smiling faces in the airport and on board, we respect your decision to keep using this added layer of protection. Above all, we hope you’ll treat each other with kindness and respect throughout the travel journey and beyond,” the statement read. 

Ruling met with mixed reactions

While people choosing to fly may experience more flexibility when it comes to masks, on the ground and on some rail and bus systems it’s a different story. 

“New York City’s MTA system will keep masks in place under state regulations, as will Chicago’s CTA, the Bay Area’s BART, and Los Angeles’ LA Metro systems,” NBC News reported. 

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Tuesday that masks will no longer be required on NJ transit. Washington D.C.’s WMATA is following suit and will make masks optional effective April 18. 

In addition, passengers on Amtrak trains are no longer required to wear masks nor are they required in train stations. 

At the Philadelphia International Airport however, masks must still be worn inside airport terminals in compliance with the governor’s indoor mask mandate and at the San Francisco Airport  masks are still required while authorities await further guidance from the TSA.